The province’s ongoing efforts to put out the financial “dumpster fire” at ICBC will include dousing the costs of injury claims by taking many claim disputes to an independent tribunal and capping payments of pain and suffering awards for minor injuries.

Both take effect April 1, the same day insurance rates also go up.

ICBC and the province are trying to find a solution for claim payouts being higher than revenue from insurance premiums. It’s a problem the public insurer’s CEO said rocked ICBC’s bottom line.

“What we've seen recently, certainly in the last three to five years, was an incredible run up in the pain and suffering payouts associated with minor injuries,” said Nicolas Jimenez.

Attorney General David Eby said the changes introduced Friday will help save the public insurer $1 billion dollars a year. ICBC’s current fiscal year ends on April 1 and it’s again on track to lose another $1 billion dollars, compared to $1 billion dollar-plus loss the year before. Calling the changes taking effect April 1 “significant," Eby noted even more work is being done to help move ICBC’s bottom line from the red to black by in part, cutting down on legal fees.

“We have major changes coming in in September,” Eby told reporters at a media event.

He said those caught behind the wheel for risky behavior like distracted driving and speeding, or those causing crashes, would pay more than “good drivers” with good safety records. The revised rate formula will take into account driving history, geographic location and level of risk will factor with a goal of making bad drivers pay more.

Implementation of a previously-announced change to limit the use of experts in cases has been delayed to December.

Also being looked at, how autobody shops charge ICBC and windshield replacement costs. He said when he took on the ICBC file the goal was to “plug the biggest holes first.”

Not everyone is happy with the way the province and ICBC are trying to transform the crown corporation’s bottom line. Trial lawyers have fought changes to claims disputes valued at $50,000 or less that they say ultimately adds insult to injured people.

“those who have the most to lose are people who are innocent victims of other people's negligence because the changes that are coming into effect only apply to those who are injured through no fault of their own,” said Nathaniel Hartney of Preszler Injury Lawyers.

Hartney added the biggest issue with the new changes is that they apply to injuries that could last a lifetime, noting there’s been criticism of how the government defines minor injuries.

The changes taking effect April 1 include:

  • Cap of $5,500 on pain and suffering payouts for minor injuries
  • A new online Civil Resolution Tribunal to deal with injury claim disputes valued at $50,000 or less
  • Improved accident benefits including an increase for those unable to work, and to access home support
  • Expanded treatment options – including acupuncture, counselling, massage therapy and physiotherapy

In a press release Friday, the attorney general’s office noted to apply for expanded health and rehab benefits that kick in on Monday, injured people will get 60 days to submit their receipts after an appointment. The timeframe for starting a claim with ICBC is within two years after an incident.

Basic insurance rates will also go up by 6.3 per cent on Monday. That’s about $60 a year on average. The BC Utilities Commission approved the increase on an interim basis.

The Trial Lawyers Association who has fought the changes plans to make an announcement April 1.